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Indian Premier League: 2021 competition suspended amid coronavirus outbreak in country

The number of new coronavirus infections in India passed 20 million on Tuesday with 357,229 new cases reported in the latest 24-hour period; IPL regular season was set to end on May 23 with qualifiers and eliminators to follow before the final on May 30

October 10, 2020, a cyclist rides past a hoarding of Mumbai Indians cricketers of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament in Mumbai
Image: The IPL regular season was set to end on May 23

The 2021 Indian Premier League has been suspended indefinitely amid concerns over coronavirus levels in the country.

The number of new coronavirus infections in India passed 20 million on Tuesday with 357,229 new cases reported in the latest 24-hour period, placing further strain on an already overwhelmed health system.

The regular season had been scheduled to end on May 23 with qualifiers and eliminators to follow before the final on May 30.

"The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in an emergency meeting has unanimously decided to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect," an IPL statement said.

"The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organising the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and wellbeing of all the stakeholders in mind.

"These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times."

Mumbai Indians were due to play Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday, in what would have been the 31st match of a scheduled 60, but Sunrisers became the third franchise to reportedly return a positive Covid-19 case among their staff a matter of hours before the planned start.

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Former England batsman Rob Key says the halting of the Indian Premier League schedule was inevitable given the situation regarding coronavirus in the country.

Two players from the Kolkata Knight Riders and two of the Chennai Super Kings backroom team also tested positive over the weekend, leading to enforced quarantine and postponed fixtures.

Three Australian cricketers - Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye - had already cut short their IPL season to head home, while India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin had taken a break to spend time with his family.

The IPL statement continued: "The BCCI will do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all the participants in IPL 2021.

"The BCCI would like to thank all the healthcare workers, state associations, players, support staff, franchises, sponsors, partners and all the service providers who have tried their best to organise IPL 2021 even in these extremely difficult times."

ECB in discussions with BCCI over England players' repatriation

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is in discussions with the BCCI over how to repatriate England's contingent of 11 IPL players, including limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan.

Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes, who are members of England's Test squad, had been facing the possibility of missing England's five-day series against New Zealand at the start of June, but the IPL's postponement could see them become available. Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Sam Billings, Chris Jordan, and Tom Curran are the other English players at the tournament.

Jos Buttler (Rajasthan Royals)
Image: England's Jos Buttler had been in impressive form for the Rajasthan Royals

It will be up to the BCCI to arrange flights for the players back to the UK, which could take a week or more due to logistical issues. Flights between India and the UK are currently limited and it is unlikely the ECB will charter a flight, while another option would be for the players to charter a private flight themselves.

However, before they can leave India, the players will likely need to self-isolate and provide several negative tests. With India on UK's 'red list', they will also be required to isolate in a government-approved hotel for 10 days upon arrival. This could be avoided by flying via a 'green list' country and staying there for 10 days - but that could also be logistically challenging.

An ECB spokesperson said: "Following this morning's postponement of the Indian Premier League, we are in close contact with our players and staff in India as arrangements are put in place for them to return home safely.

"The ECB understands the BCCI's decision to postpone the competition for the safety and wellbeing of those involved, and thanks the BCCI for its commitment to do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all those taking part in the competition.

"Our thoughts remain with the people of India during these challenging times."

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association have been trying to work out contingencies to ensure the health and safety of players such as Steve Smith and David Warner, including charter flights to other countries.

Cricket Australia issued a statement saying the national governing body and the union "respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions".

"CA is in direct contact with the BCCI as they work through plans to ensure the safe accommodation and repatriation of Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators back home."

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